by Trevor Hopkins

Campsie and I made our way back to the Stalactite Saloon, this time approaching the stage door which was set on a broad side-street. There was a fair amount of coming and going through the door, although it rapidly became apparent that this wasn't quite as unregulated as it might at first have seemed.

Access was controlled by a doorman, a grizzled old Goblin in a bulky old-fashioned greatcoat with actual epaulettes and a peaked cap. He had alert observant eyes and he stood attentively outside the door itself, nodding through those who he recognised. Sure, there were a couple of younger and fitter-looking guards dressed in more conventional suits which were just visible inside the doorway, but the old guy in the hat seemed to be in charge.

I marched up to the entrance, trailed by Campsie, where the doorman stopped me politely.

"You can't come in here, sir, not if you're not on the list," he said gravely.

I looked the old Goblin up and down, giving him the impression of my admiration and my understanding for his position. That was the idea, anyway.

"You've been doing this job a long time, I'll wager," I suggested politely.

"Fifty-eight years, sir, in this very job."

I nodded sagely, again projecting my respect for his situation.

"And you'll have dealt with Private Investigators before?" I continued, pulling out my wallet and giving him a flash of the buzzer, "Protecting the performers and the management from prying eyes and impudent questions?"

"That's about right, sir," he replied, but with less certainty than before.

I fished a business card out of my pocket and handed it to him.

"But what about PIs who have been engaged by the management?" I asked, sweetly, "Which we have been. So why don't you get this card to Mister Broxden right away, and see what he says?"

To his credit, the doorman took my card with alacrity, scanned it quickly then waved forward one of the younger Goblin who had been sitting on a box just inside the door. There was a muttered conversation, then the other took the card and walked smartly into the building.

I gestured to Campsie and we walked a few steps away before lounging against the otherwise unblemished brickwork.

"Are we going to get in?" she muttered.

"Yeah," I answered confidently, "Broxden will be around and we'll be inside in a few minutes. But it's always best to stay on the right side of doorman and concierges. You never know when you might need a favour from them."

I pulled a cigarette packet from my pocket and shook it until one emerged from the opening. I pulled it out with my lips, then offered the packet to Campsie. She declined with a wave of her hand.

"I know it's part of the image," she said as I struck a match on the heel of my shoe and lit up, "But I've never really fancied it."

I snorted.

"Not everything is to do with image, you know," I replied, "Actually, I just like the taste."

Part 20 Part 22